Just like human allergies, feline allergies seem to be on the increase. It is estimated that about 15 % of cats have allergy symptoms. Often allergies become evident when the cat is between one and three years of age.
If your cat has an allergy, it can still live a good life, if you take care of the symptoms - and you absolutely should. A cat usually doesn’t show its illness or pain very easily, so when it has reached the situation when allergy is clearly causing it discomfort, you can be assured it is feeling pretty miserable.
These allergic reactions in cats can be caused by several reasons we shall discuss in these articles.
But what exactly is an allergic reaction? To put it shortly: an allergic reaction occurs when a cat’s immune system overreacts to a specific non-harmful substance. In case of feline allergies the immune system does not recognize the harmless particles as harmless, but thinks they are dangerous things like bacteria.
To explain an allergic reaction in a cat in a bit more detail: what actually happens is that when a cat comes in contact with an allergen it is hypersensitive to, its white blood cells react with the antigens, and it begins to produce a protein called Immunoglobulin IgE. This protein attaches itself to the mast cells of the skin. And this, in turn, makes the blood flow increase and releases histamine, which makes the skin itch, become puffy and hot.
Usually when people talk about allergies, the first thing they think about is sneezing. And with human allergies it really is a very common symptom of allergy. In cats, however, the symptoms mostly show in their skin. They are uncomfortable on their own, but if left untreated may lead to other illnesses such as asthma. Also secondary infections may show up in the cat’s ears and skin, and the bacterial and yeast infections may make the itching much worse, up to the point a long term antibiotic treatment is necessary. So, if your cat has recurring ear or skin infections (or both), it just might be they are caused by an allergy.
Allergic reactions in a cat may occur immediately after being in contact with the allergen, or it may take a while for the symptoms to develop.
There are four main categories of feline allergies.
Contact allergy usually develops slowly - it takes more than one exposure to allergens to develop.
Fleas on cats are a very common cause for allergy symptoms. House dust mites can also cause allergies.
Food allergy may develop even when the cat is already older. Suddenly the cat becomes allergic to food it used to eat with no problems in the past.
Inhalant allergies can be caused by cat litter, household chemicals, mildew, mold, pollen, smoke… It is estimated that around 10-30 % of cats develop inhalant allergies.
A cat can also be allergic to medication such as antibiotics, penicillin and sulfonamides. A cat may also be allergic to anesthetics, so it is important to test for this before any surgery.
More rare forms of feline allergies are hormonal and genetic allergies. Here we shall discuss the more common allergies.
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